Billie Jean King – “Global Mentor for Gender Equality”
UNESCO named U.S. tennis legend Billie Jean King “Global Mentor for Gender Equality” within the framework of UNESCO’s partnership with the Sony Ericsson Women’s Tennis Association Tour. The naming ceremony took place in Doha, capital of Qatar, in November 2008 attended by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, Hans d’Orville.
As “Global Mentor for Gender Equality”, Ms King joins “Promoters of Gender Equality” to further gender equality and promote women’s leadership in all spheres of society.
In a video message, UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, said that the naming of Ms King as Global Mentor for Gender Equality came “in recognition of her tremendous career, which has inspired millions and changed the lives of young women across the world. Her designation also acknowledges the mentoring she has provided to generations of tennis players who have followed in her footsteps. Ms King has achieved her goal of using sports as a means for social change”. Mr Matsuura went on to praise Ms King’s initiatives as “exciting and innovative” in creating the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974 and the GreenSlam initiative, in 2007, the former to improve the standing of women in sport, the latter to encourage the sport industry to become more environmentally responsible.
The Billie Jean King Leadership Internship programme, funded by the UNESCO - Sony Ericsson WTA Tour partnership, joins other projects supported by the partnership in Cameroon, Liberia, Jordan, China and Dominican Republic. The new programme, which is run by the Women’s Sports Foundation, provides an opportunity for one young woman to gain experience in the sport’s industry thanks to an internship at the Women’s Sports Foundation for a year. At the end of the year, interns will benefit from a follow-on placement opportunity in the sports business. The purpose of this initiative is to develop the next generation of female sport leaders as women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in this industry.
The following programmes are being implemented under the partnership:
- In Liberia, project established a women-only night school programme for 1000 girls. It is also used to train female teachers to improve equal access to quality primary and secondary education for disadvantaged women in post-conflict Liberia.
- The project in Cameroon brings together a group of successful female politicians, business women and athletes who organize various events and activities in support of women’s leadership and gender equality.
- In China, a project aims to raise the percentage of rural women involved in local affairs and promote a more balanced decision making process.
- In the Dominican Republic, awareness-raising, capacity building, and training activities provide advocacy for women’s social and political leadership. One such project trains 80 women aged 18 to 28 in participative leadership skills to encourage them to rise to top positions in civil society and political organizations.
- In Jordan, a legal rights awareness program consisting of 24 legal training workshops throughout the country, are designed to empower women to know their rights.
“This partnership is a strong step in an effort to improve gender equity issues on many levels, and I am honored to be part of this team. There is so much work still to be done when it comes to breaking down barriers to opportunity for women and girls throughout the world, and one of the most effective things we can do is combine our resources, energies and expertise. UNESCO, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the players of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour together can be a potent force for social change.” Billie Jean King (6 November, 2008 – Doha, Qatar)